Yesterday Sam and I went out for a ride, taking our favourite route out to Chipping Norton and stopping for a fine slab of carrot cake and hot chocolate before swinging 180 degrees and enjoying the tailwind home. Bliss!
However, one thing was painfully apparent. Two rounds of chemo down and one pair of steroid-wasted legs do not make for a happy marriage with a 12-23 cassette. (For those of you not finely acquainted with the intricacies of bike bits, these numbers equate to how many teeth you have on your rear wheel gearing and hence how easy it is to turn the pedals. In my case, erm not so easy any more!) There was only one thing for it – this morning I trotted off to the bike shop and begged for the biggest, toothiest dinner plate-sized cassette they could possibly fit. The amazing guys at Beeline road shop did a fantastic job and kitted me out with a 28, five extra gears which my little legs will no doubt wholeheartedly appreciate.
Having done regular exercise since the day I rocked up in Oxford and unwittingly got sucked into the weird and wonderful world of rowing, with its 5.30am starts, circuits sessions and daily floggings on the river, it’s quite a strange sensation to now be watching my bionic fitness ebbing away, to be out of breath on little inclines, to not be able to turn my gears any more. And knowing that come 6 months’ time, I’m going to have to tackle the long painful process of building my fitness back up from scratch.
But I’ve always been one that likes a challenge. And besides, it hasn’t always been this way. It may surprise you to discover that the ‘duracell bunny’ only came into existence relatively late in life. Being perenially dwarf-like in stature compared to my classmates and severely challenged when it comes to hand/ eye coordination, PE at school for me was not my finest hour. Indeed my overriding memories are being picked last for virtually everything, punctuated with the odd mocking comment along the lines of ‘well you could try running through their legs’ or ‘perhaps you’d be better off just being ball girl’. Looking back though, two flashes of the indomitable spirit shone through:
1) Gymnastics class, aged ~8. Rumour had it that one of the coveted ‘green cardboard good marks’ would be awarded to anyone that scaled the top of the ropes that hung from the high ceiling of the school hall. Naomi duly scales rope; PE teacher duly ignores Naomi while tending to the more talented members of the brood. Naomi clings on – for a good 5 minutes – and refuses to descend until her presence is noted and receipt of ‘good mark’ secured.
2) The bleep test, aged ~16. For those of you that never had to endure this peculiar brand of torture at school, the bleep test basically involves running between two markers, arriving at the second one before the bleep sounds. And of course the intervals between the bleeps contract and contract so you progress from a lolling walk to an increasingly desperate sprint. To the immense surprise of the ‘ye of little faith PE teachers’, I was the last man standing when they inflicted the bleep test on us.
I’m a great believer in the fact that sheer will and determination trumps adversity every time. And so far I’ve not been disappointed.